By SEAN RICE
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey wants a new jail.
The sheriff appealed to Mercer County Commissioners Thursday
for money to assess the needs of the county jail in the wake
of last weekend’s jail break.
While the short-lived escape by felon Steven Mayer was the result
of him crashing through an exterior door, Grey also asked the
commissioners to consider fixing the other problems with the
“The fact is we have a 65-year-old jail, yes, probably
one of the best in the state in 1939 when it was built,”
Grey told the commissioners. “I’ve got an overcrowding
issue, not related to the escape, but we are overcrowded just
about every day.”
Grey told the commission that a representative from a prison
building firm will inspect the jail’s broken exterior
door on Monday at no charge. But for $10,000, the company would
do a full assessment of the jail that would provide options
for expansion or for building a new facility, he added.
Grey explained the jail population exceeds the limit of 15 on
a majority of days, and prisoners are sometimes shipped to another
county jail, or on rare cases, released. Also, the elevator
needs fixed and there is not enough staff to run the facility
to state guidelines.
“This is kind of a wake up call where we need to start
thinking about putting more than a Band-Aid on it. We’re
starting to hold people who have a legitimate reason to want
to get out,” Grey said of the increasing list of felons
the jail holds.
“We have to look at fixing more than just those doors
... when I have to ask police departments not to serve warrants,”
This issue came to a head after inmate Mayer escaped the grasp
of a deputy and used his weight to knock open a door from the
jail’s recreation area, which doubles as a garage bay.
The inmate attempted to run though a door as ministers from
Celina Baptist Temple were exiting after a Saturday service.
The ministers blocked the door from the outside, and Mayer was
grabbed by jail deputy Josh Boos. Mayer wrestled away from Boos
and ran full speed into another door, which gave way. Outside,
another deputy that happened to be in the parking lot tackled
After a long discussion, the commissioners gave Grey authority
to seek a cost estimate on doing a full assessment.
As ideas were passed back and forth for a location for a new
or satellite jail, the areas mentioned included the former county
administration building on South Main Street in Celina, the
county home property and the building known as the Spriggs building
next to the Celina Fire Department.
Grey pressed the commissioners not to drag their feet on jail
“Right now we have a security issue ... that guy ran right
through my door,” Grey said. “There’s no way
I cannot have (prisoners) go by those doors. Hopefully nobody
else is going to try it.”